When it comes to expectations, I'm just not there yet in regards to Dez Bryant playing. Over this long weekend, it was productive, but I still didn't get any medical degrees so I obviously don't know as much as the trainers and doctors for this team.
But showing up on a side field Thursday is different from returning to practice, and therefore, I have a hard time thinking he plays Sunday. But I hope I'm wrong because he's fun to watch and this team certainly needs him in the lineup.
However, I think the Cowboys will be better regardless if No. 88 is on the field.
I don't always agree with the notion of making change for change sake. But I don't think what the Cowboys did last week was just because. And let's not forget, the Cowboys made trades for this very reason.
*If Brandon Weeden doesn't play well in this stretch, let's make sure we've got a veteran like Matt Cassel to put in there. *
*If, we don't get what we expect from Joseph Randle and/or Darren McFadden, let's see what a guy like Christine Michael could add. *
These two guys were insurance policies for a reason, and now the Cowboys are forced to use them.
Now, it's not a given that Michael will start, but the word around Valley Ranch is that he certainly will play more and may even get the nod come Sunday afternoon in the Meadowlands.
Take those two moves, coupled with the switch at left guard to La'el Collins, and then some extra time with the bye week, and I think it's only natural to expect improvement from the offense.
Since Jason Garrett arrived as the offensive coordinator in 2007, the Cowboys are 5-3 in games after the bye. One of the losses occurred in 2012 when they missed a game-winning field goal at the final gun in Baltimore. But the running game actually looked better that day than we had seen all year. They also lost in 2011 up in New England in the final minutes as well.
The last two years, the Cowboys have come off the bye week and beaten the Giants on the road, so they are certainly hoping for a three-peat there.
Let's start with the quarterback. I'm not trying to be naive in thinking Cassel will save the day, but he's at least won games in this league and even made a Pro Bowl. You're not asking for a lot here. He doesn't have to be Tony Romo. Just be serviceable, limit the mistakes and take a few shots down the field when they are there. More than anything, don't mess it up. Let the defense go win the game.
That's where this team is right now. The strength has shifted to the defensive side, and it's up to the offense to just score enough points to get by. Do I think Cassel is better than Weeden? I certainly do and that's why I think the Cowboys will improve this week.
I also think Michael is the most complete back on the squad. He's big and powerful, but just as quick and shifty. More than anything, I think he's the hungriest back on the team and sometimes that is more important than anything.
I don't really know if Collins is better than Leary just yet. I do think Leary was banged up with the groin injury and wasn't healthy the last two games, but if the Cowboys feel like it's time to make the move, all we can really do is trust them. Collins is a talented player who eventually will be a starter. We know that. So it looks like the time is now for that to happen.
Add up all of these moves, coupled with the return of another defensive player (Randy Gregory) and the entire team coming off the bye week, and it's not farfetched to expect improvement this week from the offense.